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A Timeline and History of Talcum Powder and Ovarian Cancer Lawsuits

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Spilled Talcum Powder With a StethoscopeIn October 2016, Johnson & Johnson lost yet another court case regarding talcum powder’s links to ovarian cancer. A St. Louis jury awarded a Modesto, CA woman over $70 million dollars after a lawsuit alleging that Johnson & Johnson acted with “negligent conduct” in the production and sale of its flagship baby powder product.

This isn’t the first lawsuit that J&J has lost over talcum powder, and likely not the last, as thousands of suits work their way through the legal system. What’s the story behind these lawsuits and tremendously high jury awards?

Talcum Powder History

Talcum powder has been available for sale on store and pharmacy shelves for decades. Traditionally, talcum powder (also sold as baby powder or body powder) has been composed primarily of the mineral talc, and may have a mild fragrance added. Talc, or hydrated magnesium silicate, is a mineral that is found naturally in the Earth and mined extensively for its industrial, pharmaceutical, and cosmetic uses. More modern (and pediatrician-preferred) cosmetic formulations may replace the talc with cornstarch.

As far back as 1971, the link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer was being drawn, when a study of ovarian tumors found talc embedded in 75 percent of tumors studied. Another study, published in 1982, found that talcum powder users were three times more likely to develop ovarian cancer. Yet another study in 1992 showed similar results, and a 2003 review showed a 33 percent increase in ovarian cancer risk with long-term use. By this point, even the condom industry had given up on using talc to dust products, citing ovarian cancer concerns. Further evidence of the link between talc and ovarian cancer were added to by studies in 2013 and 2016, as well.

Lawsuit Timeline

In 2006, Deane Berg noticed strange symptoms with her period and consulted with multiple physicians before being told that she needed to have her ovaries removed. After undergoing the procedure, doctors discovered in 2007 that she had stage 3 ovarian cancer, leading to a hysterectomy and chemotherapy. She filed suit against Johnson & Johnson, and in October of 2013 a jury in South Dakota found the company liable—yet inexplicably awarded no damages.

Other lawsuits soon followed. In February of 2016, a jury in St. Louis awarded the family of a woman who died of ovarian cancer $10 million in actual damages and a further $62 million for punitive damages after finding that not only did Johnson & Johnson fail in its duty to warn the public of the risks of its product, but that the company also conspired to hide the truth about the link between talc and ovarian cancer.

In May of 2016, a St. Louis jury also awarded $55 million to a woman for claims that daily use of talcum powder was responsible for her diagnosis of ovarian cancer and subsequent hysterectomy, as well as other medical procedures; $5 million of the award was for actual damages, while the remaining $50 million was punitive damages.

It doesn’t stop there. As mentioned in the beginning of this article, a St. Louis jury awarded a fourth woman $70 million for the same thing, and at this point, more than 2,000 women who believe they have suffered as a result of Johnson & Johnson’s irresponsible marketing have filed suit.

Get Help Today

If you or a loved one have suffered from ovarian cancer and you think talcum powder might be responsible, Wayne Wright LLP would like to hear from you. We represent clients all across Texas in cases against big companies who shamefully sell dangerous products to the public without regard to safety or health risks, and we will stand up for your rights in the court of law to get you the compensation that you deserve. Call us today for a free, no-obligation consultation about your situation at 800-237-3334.


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